Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Rise Up

Yes.  My wife and I listened to a lot of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" on the way to and from Virginia Beach, but that's  not the point. 

The point is that Shamrock weekend is, for me as a runner, a "Mountaintop Experience".  The phrase refers to the biblical account of when some of Jesus' inner circle of disciples, Peter, James, and John, went to pray with Him on a mountaintop at which they saw Him revealed in all His glory.  In modern context, it's often used to refer to an event of spiritual awakening or a high point, contrasted to "the valley", everyday life in which someone lives and works and struggles every day.

I mean no disrespect to the religious connotations of the phrase, but I think the concept can apply in other walks of life.  Last summer, my company's sales meeting felt like a mountaintop experience of sorts to me.  I presented in front of a group for the first time and felt like I brought the house down with wit and good humor; watched a highly respected colleague present about (among other things) the importance of my role and how I had helped him; and left the meeting feeling more excited, valued, and connected with my coworkers than I had in years.
A few days later, I got a rude awakening when I realized that our new CEO, who sat through both of those presentations, had no idea who I was or what I did.
As a runner, Shamrock Weekend is a mountaintop experience.  It's the place where in 2011, I ran my first marathon, and where the 8K has beecome my favorite race of all, a beacon of hope and fun in running years lost to injury and malaise, and finally, where I finished the half this year to be a participant on both days for the first time.  In addition to the happy memories surrounding the event, Virginia Beach is a place Chris and I have come to feel very at home.  We always have fun and leave Shamrock Weekend feeling proud of our running accomplishments and looking forward to next year.
Now I have left the mountaintop, excited and motivated, but also realizing that over the past 5 years my motivation has died in the summer heat. I train for Shamrock -- or at least gut it out on race day -- have a blast at the parties, and then it's over in a flash.

If a Fall half or full marathon -- or my goal of a long-delayed return to the 26.2 next year at Shamrock -- is to be a reality, I must stay more focused.  Get up earlier.  Run more.  Get stronger.  Believe that I can do this again...and turn that belief into reality in the valley of the post-Shamrock everyday non-beach world that I have struggled to train in for the last 4 years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Brian's Terrible Race Photos -- 2016 Edition

I was really happy after Shamrock Townebank 8K!  I mean it.  Happy with my finishing time, happy with my level of effort, happy with the weather.  

So, why do I look like a Tyrannosaurus?  Does my face always look like that?  

Don't say anything!  Just don't say anything!!  Because I'm the most terrifying predator to ever walk the Cretaceous Period!  ROOOOAAAAAAAAAR!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Race Reports: 2016 Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon and 2016 TowneBank Shamrock 8K

Another year, another successful running trip to Shamrock Weekend in Virginia Beach.  For the first time, I competed in the Dolphin Challenge consisting of both the 8K and half -- except since I didn't register for it in time, I was really just separately running both races.  But the point remains...success!

TowneBank 8K

Don't tell the half marathon, but I think this is my favorite race of them all.  Year after year, this race has been a fun, flat, fast (definitions of fast vary by year) race with a great after party.  This year, I busted my a** for a sub 55-minute finish, my familiarity with the course helping me come in well under my pre-race goal of 60 minutes.

Conditions were near perfect for me: high 40s and dry, and I attacked the course more aggressively than I intended.  This race really is the best parts of the marathon course, boardwalk and downtown Virginia Beach, without any of the long quiet sections south or north of town.   Visibly excited, I pumped my fist excitedly as I passed Neptune for the finish before meeting Chris and enjoying a few more Yuenglings than I should have had.

I often say that while I enjoy being runner, I don't really actually enjoy running.  This race always reminds me that this really can be fun.

The after party was a blast, especially when TowneBank's hilarious mascot, Town E. Bear, went up in stage with the band.  After an 8K and X number of Yuengs, this was the funniest thing I had ever seen.

Anthem Half Marathon

This one was not fun.  Everything J&A can control always goes perfectly, but they can't control the weather (Everyone knows that's Pudge the Fish).  The weather at the start of this one was MISERY.  Gale-force winds and a driving rain.  I love to inspire Chris and I (Chris hates it) with Aragorn's speech from "Return of the King" bit I really did think this was the that the courage of men (at least this one) failed.

But...running in a cold rain is actually a slight improvement over huddling helplessly against a tiny tree to get out of the wind.  The first two miles up Atlantic were tough, but the rain slacked and conditions were nice as we ran through the woods along Shore Drive.  Then...Fort Story happened.  It was amazing how little of the Fort I remembered from the marathon in 2011, but both times I have run this section, I have found it to be challenging as the winds buffeted us again.  After leaving the base, I gratefully partook of cookies and beer offered by kindly spectators. 

The long trudge back down Atlantic was challenging and at times absurd, but the finish on the boardwalk was worth it as always.  It felt great to -- after 5 years -- earn a finisher's hat again.
The after party was again a blast, with more Yuenglings and Buckshot, a fun country cover band.  I'm not dancing because I'm cool...I'm dancing because I'm freezing and to keep my legs from cramping.
Honestly, I just can't write enough about how much fun J&A makes this weekend, and I'm already looking forward to next year's festival.

(This bear is the funniest mascot ever after a race.)

(The haul for the weekend.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Race Report: 2016 Under Armour Kelly St. Patrick's Day Shamrock 5K

I hate this race.  Every year, I blog about how much I hate this race.  The crowds, the lack of pace signs, too-long beer lines at the postrace party, the crowds.

And every year, I come back to this race, mostly for the post - race celebration we always have at a local pub.

I've put down some good times here.  26:14 in 2010, our first crack at it, was my best.  Tapered to a 30 minute finish in 2011 a week before my first marathon, and came back strong with a 26:42 in 2012 while recovering (so I thought) from what turned out to be my compartment syndrome.  This year, I ran a 32:55 and said afterwards that "I ran the shit out of that race".  That’s not one of my best 5K times by any means, but it's quite a but faster than I've been in training this year, when I've pretty consistently been a 12 - minute miler.

It helped that most of the first mile is downhill, and the last mile mostly flat.  There's some hills in the second mile and beginning of the third (coming back up Key Highway toward Light St.) but I felt strong...or at least "not weaker" on the hills.  Thanks, Mt. Wolf.

I did have the feeling at about halfway that I was running this faster than I should have and wouldn't be able to finish without a walk break or two, but the cool weather helped me hang in to the end.

I'm very happy with a time that I would have been pissed about 4 or 5 years ago, but that's something I can work on.  I would like to get myself back under 30 minutes in the 5K this year, but I need to balance that with an overall focus on base mileage and long runs for a possible marathon attempt in the fall.

Whether or not that happens, I'm pretty sure you'll see me at the start of this race next March.

Fast course, great crowd support, the crowd of green-clad runners heading down Charles St. is a cool sight, you can watch the parade afterward, and sometimes the Oriole Bird is in the parade.

Crowded course, lack of pace signs, the name of the race is annoyingly long and I can't call it "Shamrock 5K" when so many people are familiar with the Shamrock races in VA Beach the next weekend.

Friday, January 22, 2016

One Last Run Before the Snow

As Winter Storm Jonas pummels Central PA, it seems like I probably won't be getting out on the roads any time soon. 

At least my last "long run" (I was due for a step back week, anyway), 5 miles before work today, was a good one.  I felt great on this run...despite going out for a beer and tacos at Mexitaly (my favorite restaurant in York) the night before since we'd be snowed in all weekend.

Maybe pre-race tacos were the key to excellence all along?  Ok, probably not, but they were really good tacos.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Good Run? I Guess?

Today, I ran my Monday Hill route again.  I felt terrible.  I was breathing heavily almost the entire route, and I needed 3 walk breaks instead of the one I needed last week.  I was writing it off as just "one of those days", when I looked down at my watch and saw that I was finishing a minute faster than my time last week.

So, I'm not sure whether this was a good run or not.  Last week, I lowered my time by a minute from the previous week and felt great.  I think I would have rather felt good with no time change.  I'm certainly still finding my pace again.  I used to be very consistent in my training and be able to tell what pace I was running by level of effort (like the "I'm dying" I put down at my 6:21 mile at Harrisburg in 2011).  Now...I'm not.  Some days I'm faster, some days I'm slower.  I care more about distance than speed, but I have to admit it's frustrating to be finishing 3 miles in the time it used to take to run four.   In my defense, it was 29 degrees F with a wind chill in the single digits.  29F, to me, is long-sleeves or jacket (probably not both), light gloves, visor, ear warmer, and shorts weather.  Single digits is jacket, Under Armour, long pants, hat, gloves.  I dressed for the wind chill, despite my route being mostly sheltered from the wind.  In the bright noon-time sun with little wind, I had way more layers than I needed.  That said, it was brutally cold tonight.  I'm very glad I got my run in during the day.  I love running in the cold, but tonight was way too cold and windy for me.

Anyway, despite not feeling so great on today's run, it caps off another pretty good week of running and fitness.  (Except Wednesday, where I was fitness whole pizza in my mouth!)  In addition to last week's hill run on Monday, I ran 2 on Thursday night with Chris, and then 6 miles in 1:09:50 on Saturday.  That's an 11:36/mile pace, not far off from where I need to be to finish a marathon in 5 hours, whether it be this fall or next spring.  I'm hoping that with more running, more hills, and some speedwork that I'd like to mix in once my endurance is built back up a little more, I'll get a little faster so I have a little cushion should I once again need to walk some of those later miles.

These first two weeks of January have been the best, most consistent stretch of running and working out that I've had since my surgery (mumbles) almosttwoyearsago.

It's something.

(This goofy fleece headband has a hole for a hat brim.  It was more than I needed today, but is still a neat, low-tech piece of gear that I hadn't used before.  The beard is just for show, it's not thick enough to keep my face warm, yet.)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hey Hills, I Got Something For You

Hey hills, remember me?  I'm the guy whose butt you kicked last Monday
But I came back...and got beat on again.  Just not as bad.  Felt much stronger; shaved over a minute off my time; and only needed one walk break instead of three.

I can build on this.  I've talked a good game before, but I really feel like I have momentum back.  To test the hills again next Monday.